What Size Turkey Should I Buy?

woman holding a platter with a large roasted turkey
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Dad just went paleo, Aunt Bess prefers dark meat, and cousin Carla “isn’t eating things with a face right now.”  If this sounds familiar, stop trying to do the holiday math alone. We’ll tell you what size turkey to buy.

The standard answer to the turkey question is one pound per person. That includes the weight of the skin and the bones. Of course, that’s per person who’s eating turkey. Cousin Carla, naturally, doesn’t factor into your count.

If your family is full of large, carnivorous beings, a pound and a half will be more appropriate. And, even if it’s not, you might want the extra half pound per person if you plan to give away any leftovers or want to freeze a batch of cooked protein for later.

Standard turkeys average 12-16 pounds, which is perfect for hosting around ten guests. If you’re entertaining a smaller crowd, look into purchasing a turkey breast, which is usually about five pounds. Or, look into buying a heritage breed. Heritage breed turkeys are known for their prized flavor and are typically much smaller, at around eight pounds when harvested.

And hey, if you’re not sold on turkey as the main course, there are plenty of alternatives.

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »

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